The Hon. John Murphy MP
The Hon John Murphy MP
Former Parliamentary Secretary for Trade


29 October 2008

13th International Conference on Legal Metrology, Sydney

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

Welcome to Sydney Australia for the 13th International Conference on Legal Metrology.

I would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we are meeting today, the Gadigal People.

The Minister for Small Business, Independent Contractors, and the Service Economy, the Honourable Dr Craig Emerson MP, who has portfolio responsibility for legal metrology in Australia, has asked me to welcome you to this auspicious occasion.

It is an honour for Australia to once again host the International Conference on Legal Metrology.  The last occasion was in the year of Australia’s Bicentenary, 1988.  Australia's National Measurement Institute is proud to host this event in 2008.

Sydney has been chosen as the location of the Conference for several reasons.  First, Sydney is a beautiful city.  Second, Sydney is an important tourist hub from which you can access other areas of the country before returning home.  Third, and most importantly, Sydney is where the headquarters of the National Measurement Institute is located.

It is very pleasing to see that so many of you have been able to join us here and I sincerely hope that you will enjoy your stay in Australia.

Legal Metrology in Australia

Australia's legal metrology has undergone some significant changes in the past 20 years since we last hosted this conference.  Our three former metrology organisations – the National Measurement Laboratory, the National Standards Commission, and the Australian Government Analytical Laboratories – came together in 2004 to form a single national metrology body, the National Measurement Institute (NMI).  

NMI is responsible for Australia's national infrastructure in physical, chemical, biological, and legal measurement.  Bringing together these into a single organisation provides synergies and opportunities to solve measurement problems, drawing on all these disciplines.  Examples where these synergies become important include environmental measurements, nanotechnology, and quality measurements in trade (such as protein content of grain and the sugar content of cane sugar).

I note that the conference program includes a technical visit to NMI's laboratories.  I urge you to take advantage of this opportunity to see, at first hand, some of Australia's metrology infrastructure and to meet some more of NMI's staff.

On a slightly different tack, Australia is currently in the midst of an exciting project that will change the way that trade measurement is undertaken in our country.  At present, trade measurement is under the jurisdiction of individual Australian State and Territory governments.  This situation is a legacy from the 19th Century British colonies in Australia where traditionally 'weights and measures' for trade was a local issue in the sparsely populated ‘Great Southern Land’.  Thus, no single, continent-wide set of rules was developed.

The Australian Government is in the process of setting up a truly national system of trade measurement which has strong industry support. The legislation for our new national system was introduced into Australia's Federal Parliament last month.  NMI has responsibility for implementing the transition to a national trade measurement system beginning on 1 July 2010, and for administering the system beyond that date.

Legal Metrology Internationally

Much has changed in legal metrology in the 20 years since the Conference last assembled in Sydney.  Technology has been advancing rapidly in many areas including communications, automation, software and measurement instrumentation.  There have been major changes in the ways in which the world communicates, trades, and generally does business.

Accordingly, the role of OIML is becoming increasingly important in this new age of technology with measuring instruments such as 'smart' electricity meters being rolled-out in many countries.

I note that OIML is an intergovernmental treaty organisation established in 1955 in order to promote the global harmonization of legal metrology and that it has observer status on the Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT Committee) of the World Trade Organisation.  Accordingly, its recommendations, or model regulations, are critical to underpin international and national trade, particularly in pre-packaged goods.  I mention pre-packaged goods because the majority of international food trade is now in pre-packaged goods whereas, in the past, it was in bulk commodities.

Australia is an active member of OIML and has always held the work of the International Organisation of Legal Metrology (OIML) in high regard.  Indeed, NMI is a participating member on 40 OIML technical committees and has observer status on 10 other technical committees.  Rather than put its resources into developing national standards, Australia has preferred to work within the OIML technical committee framework to develop international model regulations that can then be adopted with confidence as national standards or regulations within Australia.

Australia has gone further than good intentions and has written OIML into its measurement legislation.  Australia's National Measurement Act requires that the Minister with responsibility for legal metrology must be satisfied that any proposed regulation governing Pattern (or Type) Approval of measuring instruments is consistent with specifications published by OIML, unless there is a very good case for variation.

By hosting this Conference, the Australian Government is indicating its continuing support for international collaboration in legal metrology and metrology generally.  Last week, we also hosted meetings of the Asia Pacific Legal Metrology Forum and a workshop on Legal Metrology Needs of South Pacific Economies, in the Hunter Valley, here in New South Wales.  I understand that the outcomes of those meetings will be considered at a Round Table of Regional Legal Metrology Organisations, where the needs of developing economies will also be considered.

In conclusion, from my perspective of the Australian trade portfolio, OIML's work is crucial to underpin the ability of nations to trade products and services into the global economy.  This is why your meetings are important.  They stimulate international cooperation and development, help to set priorities, and encourage a better understanding of legal metrology.  The outcomes of your deliberations will ultimately translate into the well-being of individual people, most of whom probably will never know about OIML but, thanks in part to your work, can engage in trade and have a better standard of living.

It is clear from the conference agenda that you have a full and busy time ahead of you.  In a spirit of cooperation, I wish you an interesting and successful conference and trust that you will enjoy your stay in Sydney.

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